All About Inspection Certificates

The Ins and Outs of Inspection Certification

Preparing a box for export
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When shipping high-value products or when you are dealing with a very conscientious customer, an inspection certificate might be requested. An inspection certificate provides proof that what you are shipping is, in fact, what the customer ordered, and is also of good quality. If a customer requests this document, agree to it. According to Export.gov, administrative and inspection fees related to an inspection certificate are generally paid by the importer or the country of import, but some costs can be billed to the buyer. Also, ask the customer to recommend an independent inspection agency to perform the review at your end. If the buyer doesn't have one, refer to your import/export dream team (e.g., banker, logistics expert, accountant, and lawyer) for a suitable contact.

An inspection certificate can be furnished directly to a buyer, a buyer’s government, or directly to a buyer’s bank. In the case of presenting to a buyer’s bank, it is precipitated by the request for a Letter of Credit payment transaction that indicates an inspection certificate is required in order to fulfill payment obligations. Generally, a manufacturer furnishes the certificate or the report.

International Inspection Companies

A number of countries’ governments have ongoing relationships with international inspection companies to verify the quantity, quality, and price of shipments imported into their countries. Here are four such companies:

  1. Bureau Veritas Group
  2. Cotecna
  3. Intertek
  4. SGS

The purpose of these companies is to assist when you need to be sure about an aspect of an item sold. For example, you might need to validate the price charged by an exporter to reflect the true value of the goods and to prevent less than quality goods from entering the country. Another reason is to deflect attempts to avoid paying customs duties.

Countries Requiring Pre-Shipment Inspections (PSIs)

Countries requesting or requiring pre-shipment inspection certificates (PSIs) vary year to year and are based on a shipment above a certain value. In some countries, however, an inspection certificate is required regardless of the value so be sure to inquire. Export.gov maintains a list of countries to check:

Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa), Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Kuwait, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Saudia Arabie, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zanzibar, and Zimbabwe.

Other Inspection Documents

If you are exporting an agricultural product, such as nuts, fruits, seeds, grains, and vegetables, you will need a federal phytosanitary inspection certificate. This certificate is issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to satisfy import regulations for foreign countries. It indicates that a U.S. shipment has been inspected and is free from toxic plant and pest diseases.

In addition to the phytosanitary certificate, the USDA issues the Export Certificate for Processed Plant Products and the Certificate of Quality and Condition. If a processed plant product cannot be given a phytosanitary certificate but has been denied entry to one or more countries for not having a health certification, an Export Certificate can be issued. Some products in this category are nuts in bulk that are salted, roasted, or vacuum-packed in or out of their shells, soy-fortified products, and meal extracted from seeds by a ​solvent.

The Certificate of Quality and Condition is offered by the USDA's Processed Products Branch following the official inspection and grading of canned, frozen, and dehydrated fruits and vegetables, and related products. This certificate is available on a fee basis and can be tailored to meet your specific import/export needs.

What to Do If There Is a Certification Inspection Dispute

If a disagreement arises with the outcome of the inspection process, a resolution should be negotiated with the inspection company. In some instances, the exporter and inspection company can work together to resolve the issue.